Woolworths ditches plastic shopping bags, Coles calls time on mesh produce bag trial

Woolworths poised to ditch plastic bags

Shoppers across Australia will continue to see changes as supermarket giants grapple with the challenge of reducing plastic usage.

Woolworths is slashing a major source of its plastic output by eliminating plastic shopping bags, while Coles has called time on a trial of mesh fresh produce bags.

The moves come just over three months since the supermarket giants were left red-faced as news broke their mutual partner, REDcycle, had been secretly stockpiling plastic items shoppers had handed in to be recycled.

So far, 32 stockpiles equalling more than 12,000 tonnes of waste have been found across three states, and there’s a possibility more could be still be discovered.

Earlier this month, NSW’s Environment Protection Authority ordered Coles and Woolworths to dump about 5200 tonnes of soft plastics that had been sitting in warehouses across the state.

Woolworths bids farewell to plastic shopping bags

Woolworths stores in Queensland and the ACT began phasing out their 15 cent reusable plastic shopping bags on Wednesday as part of the supermarket’s commitment to stop selling the bags nationwide.

The move is expected to mean more than 1630 tonnes of plastic are removed from circulation annually.

Woolworths bags

Woolworths is hoping more customers will get the message and bring in their own bags as it pulls its plastic bags from sale. Photo: Woolworths

The bags were phased out in South Australia, Northern Territory and Western Australia last year. Remaining states are set to follow by June.

Danny Baldwin, Woolworths state general manager for Queensland, said while recycled paper bags (which can carry up to 6 kilograms) will be offered as the main replacement for reusable plastic bags, the ultimate goal was to “sell less bags altogether”.

Eight in 10 Woolworths customers already brought their own bags when they shopped.

“Bringing your own bags is the very best outcome for the environment, and we encourage our customers to keep up the great work,” Mr Baldwin said.

Coles retreats on mesh bag push

Last year, Coles ditched single-use plastic produce bags in ACT stores after giving customers two weeks in September to stock up on free mesh alternatives, as part of a trial program encouraging customers to bring reusable options for their fresh produce purchases.

Coles had hoped to roll out the initiative nationally. But the results from the trial show customers are not completely on board with the idea.

The trial has ended with the return of single-use produce bags in the ACT – although they are now compostable versions made from plant-based corn starch.

reusable mesh produce bags coles

Mesh alternatives aren’t the silver bullet for plastic bag woes. Photo: Coles

The mesh bags are still available for purchase.

A Coles spokesperson said the trial was “challenging” for both shoppers and staff, but the supermarket remains committed to working towards plastic reduction initiatives.

“In addition to the reusable mesh produce bags we learned customers wanted more choice and convenience,” they said.

“Coles remains committed to reducing unnecessary, single-use and problematic plastic packaging and is proactively working with industry partners to find sustainable packaging solutions and move towards a circular economy, as part of our Together to Zero waste ambition.”

Despite supermarkets taking steps to reduce plastic in stores as states and territories enact varying plastic bans, experts say progress has been slow, and the issue of over-packaging continues.

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